Gatwick has been forced to restrict flights for the rest of the week after a Covid-19 outbreak led to staff shortages across its air traffic control team.
The airport confirmed it would impose daily limits on the number of flights until Sunday because almost a third of the airport’s air traffic control team has been absent due to illness, including Covid-19.
The restrictions will mean the airport will be limited to 800 flight movements each day, meaning 65 flights to and from the airport will be cut on Friday, 40 flights will be removed on Thursday and 30 flights will be removed on Wednesdays and Sundays. Tuesday and Saturday are not affected so far.
It comes after staff shortages at National Air Traffic Services (Nats), the body that manages traffic at Gatwick, led to the cancellation of around 50 flights on Sunday and 80 on Monday.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of London Gatwick, said it had been a very difficult decision, but it meant airlines could offer more reliable programs and give passengers more certainty that they would not face last-minute cancellations.”
He said: “We are working closely with the Nationals to build resilience in the control tower, and this decision means we can avoid as much disruption as possible.
“London Gatwick would like to sincerely apologize to passengers who have been affected by these restrictions.”
Gatwick said airlines would announce which services would be cut, but most were confident they would be able to move affected passengers to new flights.
It is the latest in a long list of restrictions imposed at Gatwick due to a lack of air traffic controllers at the airport, which has led to hundreds of cancellations and delays throughout the summer.
In the last month alone, there have been two incidents, including one on September 7, when a last-minute illness caused the cancellation of 40 flights.
In July, some passengers were forced to wait up to 24 hours after one in 10 flights had to be canceled and dozens more suffered delays.
Nats apologized for the latest round of disruptions but said it was working hard to train more controllers and increase the resilience of its team.
A spokesperson said: “However, with 30% of tower staff unavailable for various medical reasons including Covid, we are unable to manage the number of flights that were originally planned for this week.
“Our operational resilience in the tower will improve as our staff return to work and we move out of daylight saving time, which is particularly busy at Gatwick.
He added: “We continue to train additional air traffic controllers and hope to have another group qualified to work on the tower in the coming months, ready for next summer.”
It adds to the pressure on the Nationals after a technical glitch within their automated air traffic control system caused travel chaos during last month’s Monday bank holiday, one of the busiest travel days of the year. .
A report on the incident revealed that there were more than 1,500 cancellations and 575 delayed flights during Monday.